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Full text of "The History Of Western Education"


The philosophical writings by which they mainly exercised an
influence on the course of thought appeared in the decade before
the publication of Rousseau's Emile : their educational writings
did not appear till many years after. Strictly speaking, then, only
the earlier works should be taken into account in treating of them
as the precursors of Rousseau and succeeding educators; but as
the later works throw light on the earlier and follow directly on
them, no great harm will be done by taking the two together for
the understanding of this phase of educational theory.

Etienne Bonnot de Condillac (1715-1780) owes his fame
mainly to the Treatise on the Sensations (1754), in which he shows
by the curious illustration of a statue which began with one sense
and gradually acquired all the other senses and faculties, that even
the most complex ideas are simply combinations of sensations and
need nothing except sensation for their explanation. In the
analysis of the senses to which he was led by this view, he made
the discovery, with the help of a suggestion from Locke's Essay,
that man does not get immediate use of the senses from nature
but needs to learn to see, hear, taste, feel and touch. The impli-
cation of this would seem to be that the senses must get special
training; but this is not quite the conclusion he draws. With
doubtful logic but sound insight he refuses to consider the senses
as a detached faculty, and insists that all the training they need
comes of itself through the exercise of the understanding. " We
judge objects by touch," he says, in a passage which anticipates
Rousseau,* u only because we have learned to judge. In effect,
since the size of an object depends on its relation to other objects,
we must compare it with other objects and judge whether it differs
from them by less or more if we are to form an idea of its size.
It is the same with ideas of distance, of shape and of weight. In
a word, all the ideas that come to us through touch presuppose
comparisons and judgment" This also holds good with regard
to sight and the other senses which follow touch in their develop-
ment. <c It is proved then," he concludes, " that the faculty of
reasoning appears as soon as our senses begin to develop \ and
that we have the use of our senses at an early age, only because
we have reasoned at an early age." So far as the teacher is con-
cerned, therefore, the first training must be in observation and
reasoning. " The faculties of the understanding are the same in

* i, 47-49-